The local faction of Sensible BC, a group advocating for an end to marijuana prohibition, is gearing up to get involved both in the municipal election in November and the federal election next year.
“The strategy for the next while is to get involved in the municipal election,” said retired Nelson teacher and local Sensible BC organizer Herb Couch. “We want to try and make sure we’ve got council members and mayors who are supportive of moving away from prohibition and working towards a legal, regulated market.”
Couch said they plan to use a variety of tactics, including surveying candidates about their legalization views and using social media to advance their message. They’re hoping city council will instruct Nelson city police to downgrade marijuana possession charges to their lowest priority.
“The mayor, who sits on the police board and the city council, could have a huge impact as far as decriminalization goes,” said Couch.
He noted that Mayor John Dooley declined to sign the citizen’s initiative petition to legalize marijuana last year and hasn’t publicly shared his views on the controversial plant. However, other members of council have expressed their solidarity.
Couch said their local support has come from unexpected places.
“When we were starting Sensible BC, going around collecting signatures, we noticed that there was overwhelming support and it seemed to all be coming from women and seniors,” he said.
They had previously assumed most of their back-up would come from the younger generation.
“Some of the reasons they thought it should be legalized was that it’s never really made a difference. If anything more people use it now than ever. And they don’t want their children or grandchildren getting arrest records. That, and they think it’s a stupid waste of time and money to enforce a law most people want to see changed,” he said.
“The police need to be fighting real crime. As a teacher, schools are always starved for money but meanwhile they’re flying helicopters around looking for plants. I know this is a federal issue, but in practice we’re the ones who pay all the bills for enforcing prohibition.”
Couch believes marijuana could be regulated in much the same way coffee or wine is.
Sensible BC is watching closely to see what the outcome of legalization is in Washington and Coloroda and whether or not their legal markets will end up negatively affecting BC’s thriving marijuana industry.
“I think it’s wonderful what Colorado and Washington have done. I don’t think they’re perfect. I think BC can improve on a few things but it’s a great example,” he said. “We don’t want all our tourists going down there for cannabis. They should be enjoying Kootenay green right here.”
Couch said he became involved in the campaign to end marijuana legalization out of concern for the youth he worked with during his teaching career.
“I think it’s part of being a responsible citizen. If you see some policy that is causing great harm in society, if you see it’s costly and unsuccessful and it’s making our communities unsafe, organized crime is being increased…I just see that we’re teaching our young people hypocrisy and to punish people for cannabis use when it should be an adult choice or a medical issue.”
The Facebook group for the Nelson-Creston faction of Sensible BC currently has 297 likes on Facebook. The provincial campaign is planning a conference and training workshop in downtown Vancouver from October 3 to 5. Couch will be in attendance, and he said they’re actively looking for more Nelson residents to get involved.
To learn more, visit the Nelson-Creston Sensible BC Facebook page.